ISS transit: Video of the station passing in front of the Moon.

Did You See the Eclipse? No, the Other One.

Did You See the Eclipse? No, the Other One.

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 8 2014 12:03 PM

An Eclipse of a Different Kind


Did you see the eclipse last night? Pictures are rolling in on Twitter and Facebook, and they're lovely.

But the night before, on Oct. 7, astrophotographer Steve Knight caught a different kind of eclipse: The International Space Station passing in front of the Moon. He even got video of it:

Cool! He slowed the video down by a factor of 10; the event only lasted 1.3 seconds. To be fair, this is technically called a "transit," when something smaller passes in front of something bigger, and not an eclipse, when the objects are closer in size. But the timing of it was too close to not have fun with it.

Moon rise
The Moon rising to the east last night, a few hours before the start of the eclipse. The dark band under the Moon is the shadow of the Earth itself on the sky.

Photo by Phil Plait

Last night, right after the full Moon rose a few hours before the lunar eclipse started, I happened to go outside to check something in my front yard. I looked up (because I always look up) and by coincidence happened to see the space station passing through the sky! It was very bright, and its path took it almost directly overhead. As it moved silently across the sky, I glanced over to the Moon, just a few degrees above the eastern horizon, and then at the Rocky Mountains, to my west. The sparse snow on the tops of a few of the mountains was dimly lit by the Moon, and I realized how magnificent the view from ISS must have been: the Moon to one side, the mountains below. I hope at some point I'll see photos of that.